MRSE and MRSA are bacterial infections caused by the Staphylococcus genus. These infections are resistant to several types of antibiotics, making them more difficult to treat. They can cause serious complications if left untreated.

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If you’ve had a bacterial infection, it’s likely that you were treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are drugs that slow the growth of bacteria or kill them outright.

Some bacteria can develop the ability to withstand certain types of antibiotics, allowing them to continue to grow and making the infection more difficult to treat. This is called antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is a major public health threat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the United States each year, causing over 35,000 deaths.

MRSE and MRSA are two types of antibiotic-resistant infections caused by Staphylococcus species. Keep reading to learn more about them.

MRSE stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus epidermidis. MRSE is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin and often to other antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is acquired by sharing genetic information with other bacteria.

S. epidermidis is naturally present on human skin and is typically harmless. However, it can cause infections if the opportunity arises. Germs like this are called opportunistic pathogens.

MRSE can cause bacterial infection in the body through a break in the skin, often through a surgical wound. They can also stick to smooth surfaces, such as those found on medical devices, and cause infections. Such devices include:

Once on these surfaces, MRSE bacteria can make something called a biofilm. This is a complex structure that further protects them from the immune system and antimicrobial drugs.

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Like MRSE, these bacteria are resistant to methicillin and, typically, several other antibiotics.

S. aureus bacteria, including MRSA, can be present naturally on the skin of humans. Similar to MRSE, MRSA is an opportunistic pathogen that can cause infections if it gets inside of your body, such as through an open wound.

Many MRSA infections involve the skin. However, it can also cause infections affecting the:

There are two types of MRSA infection. Community-acquired MRSA is contracted where you live, go to school, work, or shop. Hospital-acquired MRSA is contracted in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Because S. epidermidis and S. aureus can both be found on human skin, they can interact. In fact, MRSE bacteria can share genetic information with methicillin-susceptible S. aureus bacteria, leading to antibiotic resistance.

MRSE and MRSA are from the same bacterial genus and can also cause similar types of infections. As such, you cannot tell them apart by just looking at them under a microscope or evaluating a person’s symptoms.

The two types of bacteria can be differentiated by collecting a sample from the infected area. This sample can then be grown and analyzed in a lab to determine the species of bacteria and whether it’s antibiotic-resistant.

The specific symptoms of MRSE or MRSA infections depend on which part of the body is affected. Let’s break these down now.

Medical devices

Infection of medical devices can lead to symptoms like:

  • fever and chills
  • pain and swelling in the affected area
  • discharge of pus where the device was inserted

When an infection impacts a central nervous system shunt, symptoms can include:

Skin or wound

Signs of a skin or wound infection can include a bump, incision, or an area of the skin that is:

Fever and chills may also be present.


Symptoms of endocarditis caused by MRSE or MRSA include:

Lungs (MRSA)

Signs of pneumonia due to MRSA can be:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fever and chills
  • chest pain, particularly when coughing or breathing deeply

Bones (MRSA)

An infection in the bones caused by MRSA can lead to:

  • fever and chills
  • feeling unwell (malaise)
  • an affected area that’s:
    • red
    • swollen
    • warm to the touch
    • painful
    • difficult to move or use


Symptoms of a bloodstream infection include:

Bloodstream infections are serious and can lead to sepsis, a life threatening reaction to an infection. If you or someone else has symptoms of a bloodstream infection, seek immediate medical care.

Both MRSE and MRSA are treated with antibiotics. However, the exact choice of antibiotic depends on factors like:

  • which antibiotics that the bacteria are susceptible to
  • the side effects and potential drug interactions associated with available antibiotics
  • your overall health

Antibiotics can be given directly into the bloodstream via IV. Some examples of IV antibiotics that may be used include:

  • vancomycin
  • daptomycin
  • ceftaroline

In some situations, oral antibiotics may be used. These are medications that you take by mouth and can include:

If MRSE has caused an infection on a medical device, it’s possible that the device will need to be removed as a part of your treatment.

Anyone can get either MRSE or MRSA. However, some factors can put you at an increased risk.

Both MRSE and MRSA are major causes of nosocomial infections. These are infections that are acquired while receiving healthcare.

As such, you may be at a higher risk of MRSE or MRSA if you:

  • are receiving inpatient care at a facility like a hospital or nursing home
  • had surgery
  • have a medical device, such as a catheter, in your body

Situations that are crowded, involve skin-to-skin contact, or involve sharing of supplies like towels or razors put you at risk of MRSA. The CDC notes that athletes, military personnel, and students can be at a higher risk of MRSA due to this.

Many people with an MRSE or MRSA infection can recover with proper medical care. However, outlook can depend on several factors, such as:

  • the antibiotic resistance profile of the infection
  • the area of the body affected
  • other conditions affecting your overall health
  • your age

MRSE and MRSA infections can spread to the bloodstream, leading to a serious complication called sepsis, a life threatening reaction of your body to an infection. This makes seeking prompt care for a suspected MRSA or MRSE infection vital.

How can you prevent infections with MRSE or MRSA?

One step that you can take to prevent MRSE or MRSA infections is ensuring good hygiene. This includes keeping your body and hands clean and keeping any wounds covered until they’ve healed.

What are other types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria?

There are many types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In 2019, the CDC classified the following antibiotic-resistant bacteria as urgent threats to public health:

Do all types of Staphylococcus bacteria cause infections in people?

No. There are over 50 registered Staphylococcus species. S. aureus and S. epidermidis are most often associated with infections in humans.

Other Staphylococcus species may cause infections in humans only rarely or not at all. Some Staphylococcus species cause infections in animals.

MRSE and MRSA are two types of bacterial infection caused by Staphylococcus species that are resistant to methicillin and, typically, several other antibiotics. This can make them more challenging to treat.

MRSE is often associated with healthcare settings and tends to infect implanted medical devices and surgical wounds. MRSA occurs in both the community and healthcare settings. It often causes skin infections but can infect other areas of the body, too.

Both MRSE and MRSA can cause serious complications if they’re not treated. Because of this, seek prompt medical attention if you have symptoms of an infection.